Operetta Wonderland – You Learn Something Everyday

One of the things I love about being an artist is the was not only allowed, but even encouraged to learn all the time. I’m proud that we are producing a show celebrating the music and influence of Victor Herbert, whom I knew nothing about up until this time. I’m lucky, however, to have a great team surrounding me, not the least of whom is Brian J. Shaw our artistic associate. He is serving as director of this production, and he patiently and enthusiastically led us all in learning more about Herbert’s immeasurable contribution to American music and musical. On this past Tuesday he led a community conversation on the subject at our regular Director’s Salon, and this weeks podcast focuses on that! Listen to it now, and subscribe for regular updates and podcasts from your In Series.

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The Sound of Silence

Well, I must admit slight delinquency…I’ve failed to be a regular blog poster in the past couple weeks, but don’t let that make you think things are quiet here at the In Series. Quite the opposite in fact. We closed “Figaro in Four Quartets” to a full and enthusiastic audience, and I couldn’t have been prouder of the cast, the company, the entire team. The opera, albeit in its original form, maybe center on an fictitious marriage, but the closing performance also ushered in a real marriage, my own (so you can imagine why I’ve been a little preoccupied). Not only that, but I went straight from that production into working on a new double-bill production of Purcell’s “Dido & Aeneas” and an act of my own “Fairy Queen” for Peabody Conservatory, which means going up in the afternoons to Baltimore for 6 hours of rehearsal. They are long days, but its such a joy to be in a city where I partially grew up, and at a school which shaped me as an artist. On faculty there is the brilliant soprano Ah Hong, as well as Tony Arnold who I was lucky enough to hear in recital just last week – it was a thoughtful probing concert in a series of acts looking at the effect of violence on our common psyche (and tracing vocal music through the 20th century and beyond). A lot to think about in there.

Here at In Series director Brian Shaw and pianist Carlos Rodriguez are busy building a holiday celebration of the music of Victor Herbert. I caught a bit of rehearsal and it is funny, smart, joyful and bubbles with wit – just what we could all use this season. I’m going to make a podcast on this tomorrow so I’ll save my thoughts for then.

In the meantime, we’re planning a host of new outreach events with the Springs productions (walking tours, youth education, art exhibits, concerts and parties) and starting to nail down next year’s season which is going to be something very special.

So in lieu of an apology for the silence I’ll say…stay tuned!

Bewitched and Bewildered…

But not bothered AT ALL!

We had a wonderful event last evening at the Adams Morgan Brazilian Bistro The Grill from Ipanema. Artists from our recent production of “Figaro in Four Quartets”, and members of the In Series family of artists – Cara Gonzalez, Teresa Ferrara, and Jim Williams accompanied by Frank Conlon at the piano – performed music themes for this scary season. We had my favorite arias from Handel’s “Alcina” and Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera”. It was a thrilling evening and a great way to unwind after the last two productions.

There is no rest for the weary though, tonight rehearsals begin for “Operetta Wonderland”, our holiday celebration of the music of America’s great operetta composer Victor Herbert. Its been a real learning process for me personally digging into this repertoire, and I feel so lucky to have production director Brian Shaw at the helm and by my side to introduce me to this music. I’ll be recording a podcast in the coming days to talk about what I’ve learned!

From my walk home last night, the universe sent me this:

A Guest Blog: A Figaro Musician’s Bird’s Eye View

amy domingues

When In Series Artistic Director and friend Timothy Nelson approached me about putting together a string quartet for Figaro in Four Quartets I was immediately excited.

I had the great luck to work with Timothy before in the summer of 2014, on a Cavalli opera in the beautiful city of Venice, and I knew that his concept of Figaro would be just as exciting and innovative.

While I had performed in other Mozart operas and assorted scenes before, this is my first experience with The Marriage of Figaro. I certainly had learned the overture many times over, as it is a common audition excerpt for string players. (When Tim informed me the overture was not included in this particular production, I was secretly elated).

I quickly assembled a team of colleagues who were up for the challenge of putting together a cohesive musical ensemble with limited rehearsal time. While some of us had played together before in various incarnations, some of us were new to each other. One of the joys and challenges of playing chamber music and accompanying opera is learning to blend your sound together as you bring your individual musical personalities to the table.

Our first rehearsal with the cast was in a small room above the Source Theatre. We worked together instrumentally for 2 hours first, and then read through all the recitatives and arias with each singer. I was immediately impressed with the vocalists’ level of preparation and the passion and artistry they brought to their characters. Although we didn’t make it to rehearsing the Finale, the first rehearsal was a great introduction to the piece and the singers.

Our second rehearsal with the cast was on Wednesday at the GALA Hispanic Theatre, where the production is taking place. We started with work on the Finale, which comprises about the last 15 minutes of the show. This action-packed segment features many tempo changes, rubatos, and dynamic extremes which reflect the action taking place on stage. Couples in disguise, shame, reconciliation, and forgiveness make for potent dramatic mix! It was during this rehearsal that we started to hear how the T.S. Eliot texts were intermingled with the Figaro scenes to enhance the meaning of their unifying themes, lending a sense of timelessness to the performance.

Our third rehearsal (also the first dress rehearsal) gives us our first glimpse of the beautiful light projections used to portray different environments, some natural, some abstract, against which the singers move and emote, and the poet recites his verse. Our viewpoint from backstage offers us only glimpses and hints of what the audience will see, but perhaps it is all for the best, lest we get distracted from our musical endeavors! It is also exciting to see the cast in their all-white costumes reflecting their stages of life (teenagers, a young couple, middle age, and elderly).

By the final dress rehearsal we are feeling more confident with the tempo changes, and the addition of a grand piano (Timothy is covering the wind parts as well as conducting!) in place of our rehearsal keyboard, has filled out our sound so the balance is better from the audience standpoint. We are snug in our backstage nook, with the soft glow of the stand lights illuminating our scores. We can see Timothy conducting with head nods as he plays the piano, during the moments he is covering the wind parts, or else directing us with his hands when not. The singers enter and exit the stage as we play, their white apparel lending a ghostly air as they move beyond our periphery of vision. Our eyes are locked on our music pages, but we are all breathing and moving together in concentrated precision with the singers. We are all travelers on the same path, discovering the sense of unity and timelessness in the music of Mozart and the poetry of T.S. Eliot.

—–Amy Domingues